Posts Tagged ‘total system failure’
* We live in a time of noblesse oblige without the oblige — wealth disguised as merit and merit as a pretext for malice. Nobility dodges, nobility punishes. Nobility pretends it is not nobility, and tells us to take out short-term loans.
* On writing, and then revising, a dissertation: As much as you may hate what you’re writing at this exact moment, you will only feel a more precise and exhausted loathing toward it later on.
* Ezra Klein: Five thoughts on the Obamacare disaster.
* Kevin Drum steals my bit: Can America Survive Parliamentary Norms in a Presidential System?
* “It’s like somebody opened a drain on most of the economic progress made by black families in the last 30 years,” said Mishel. “That’s three decades down the drain.”
* This is what the worship of death looks like. bell hooks (from 2001) explains George Zimmerman.
* I’ve said this before: let’s have an academic decathlon. You choose a team based on whatever pedagogical criteria you want. You can choose students from public school or private, unionized teachers or not, parochial or secular, from charter or magnet, from Montessori or KIPP or whatever else you want. However, I choose the demographics of the students on your team. For my team, the situation is reversed: you choose the pedagogical factors for my students, but I choose the demographics. You stock your team kids from whatever educational backgrounds you think work, and mine with whatever educational systems you think don’t work. Meanwhile, I give you all children from the poverty-stricken, crime-ridden inner city and impoverished rural districts where we see the most failure. I stock mine with upper-class children of privilege. I would bet the house on my team, and I bet if you’re being honest, you would too. Yet to accept that is to deny the basic assumption of the education reform movement, which is that student outcomes are a direct result of teacher quality.
* If you are a low-income prospective college student hoping a degree will help you move up in the world, you probably should not attend a moderately selective four-year research institution. The cards are stacked against you.
Who among us can forget Malia’s first words to a rapidly-growing crowd in this historical meeting between present and future, “People of 2009, we come from–” words that were immediately interrupted by her younger self, surrounded by Secret Service, saying, “It’s 2013,” which led future Malia to punch future Sasha, saying, “I told you not to mess with the controls.” Malia then continued, “2013, seriously? What’s the friggin’ point?”
* Academic jobs watch: Specialist Professor, Homeland Security.
* California isn’t a state in which liberals have run wild; it’s a state where a liberal majority has been effectively hamstrung by a fanatical conservative minority that, thanks to supermajority rules, has been able to block effective policy-making. Krugman is optimistic that the Republicans’ stranglehold on the state seems to be abating; I’d note that in the arena of public education at least all the worst ideas are coming from the Democrats.
* That’s because these workers represent what’s happening to U.S. work in three critical ways. First, precarity: Workers lack job security, formal contracts, or guaranteed hours. Second, legal exclusion: Labeled as “independent contractors,” “domestic workers” or otherwise, they’re thrust beyond the reach of this country’s creaky, craven labor laws. And third, the mystification of employment: While a no-name contracted company signs your paycheck, your conditions are set by a major corporation with far away headquarters and legal impunity. Guest Workers as Bellweather.
* But if Emanuel brought Byrd-Bennett in to work the same kind of charter magic in Chicago that she did in Detroit, he may be dismayed to encounter one important difference: Chicago is now in a good position to fight back. The school closings hearings were packed with engaged, motivated citizens, and the teachers union is more organized than it’s been in three decades. During its popular and successful strike, the union’s approval rating climbed while the mayor’s fell—public opinion polls showed that taxpayers blamed Emanuel for the ugliness that took place during negotiations. The CTU’s current leadership has built relationships with community leaders and organizations, forming a coalition to fight the slash-and-burn privatization pushed by the Board of Education and its corporate sponsors, and has even hosted civil disobedience trainings open to the public. This afternoon’s protest will serve as further evidence that Emanuel is indeed up against a new opponent, one strong enough that not even the best “cleaner” may be able to defeat it.
* Nate Silver makes your Final Four book: Louisville Favored in Final Four, but Wichita State Could Become Unlikeliest Champion.
* Zero Dark Thirty is supposedly a film about freedom. A “freedom so threatening that there are those around the world willing to kill themselves and others to prevent us from enjoying it,” as the TV sound-bite in the background puts it. The odd thing is that this freedom is never once glimpsed within the film itself. Obviously, we are constantly reminded of the imprisonment and torture of the al Qaeda suspects, but it is never their freedom we are meant to be concerned with. More tellingly, it is the American spaces within the film that leave this freedom unseen. A strange becoming-prisoner takes hold of the spaces, and of the American body itself: not unfolding, in the end, either defeat or victory, but pulling together in a constricted space the impossibility of both.
Democracy ‘Has a Hidden Failure Mode, We’ve Landed in It, and We Probably Won’t Be Able to Vote Ourselves Out of It’
The great Charlie Stross, elaborating on his sense that we are living in the aftermath of an alien invasion:
Overall, the nature of the problem seems to be that our representative democratic institutions have been captured by meta-institutions that implement the iron law of oligarchy by systematically reducing the risk of change. They have done so by converging on a common set of policies that do not serve the public interest, but minimize the risk of the parties losing the corporate funding they require in order to achieve re-election. And in so doing, they have broken the “peaceful succession when enough people get pissed off” mechanism that prevents revolutions…
So the future isn’t a boot stamping on a human face, forever. It’s a person in a beige business outfit advocating beige policies that nobody wants (but nobody can quite articulate a coherent alternative to) with a false mandate obtained by performing rituals of representative democracy that offer as much actual choice as a Stalinist one-party state. And resistance is futile, because if you succeed in overthrowing the beige dictatorship, you will become that which you opposed.
Minting the coin would interrupt that process, uniting Republicans — and many voters and business groups — against what they would see as an unsettling, illegal and inflationary power grab from the executive. And if you think the press spreads blame too equally over the debt ceiling, wait till you see the coverage if the White House decides to respond by creating a trillion-dollar coin out of nothing. You can explain the basic logic of fiat currency until you’re blue in the face, but it’s not going to matter. That coin would drive our country’s increasingly deranged politics, which are really at the heart of this crisis, to the edge
In the event that we actually breach the debt ceiling and Republicans don’t fold almost instantly, the situation changes. Again, I think this fairly unlikely. But if financial markets are roiling and the country is crying out for a resolution that Republicans, in a fit of political and moral insanity, won’t provide, then many of the drawbacks to minting the coin or invoking the 14th Amendment dissipate. At that point, such a move may seem entirely reasonable: It could bring relief to the public and the markets, and Republicans would properly take the blame — and the consequences — for having nearly destroyed the global economy. True crisis has the tendency to turn the utterly unthinkable into the absolutely necessary, as any policymaker who participated in the bailout of AIG will tell you.
But we’re not there yet, I don’t think we’re going to get there, and I think announcing a mint-the-coin policy in advance will make matters worse.
Washington Monthly quotes Chris Hayes’s book Twilight of the Elites:
And we might ask what a society that has been corrupted entirely by the Iron Law of Meritocracy would look like. It would be a society with extremely high and rising inequality yet little circulation of elites. A society in which the pillar institutions were populated and presided over by a group of hyper-educated, ambitious overachievers who enjoyed tremendous monetary rewards as well as unparalleled political power and prestige, and yet who managed to insulate themselves from sanction, competition and accountability; a group of people who could more or less rest assured that now that they have achieved their status, now that they have scaled to the top of the pyramid, they, their peers and their progeny will stay there.
Such a ruling class would have all the competitive ferocity inculcated by the ceaseless jockeying within the institutions that produce meritocratic elites, but face no actual sanctions for failing at their duties or succumbing to the temptations of corruption. It would reflexively protect its worst members; it would operate with a wide gulf between performance and reward; and it would be shot through with corruption, rule-breaking and self-dealing, as those on top pursued the outsized rewards promised for superstars. In the same way the bailouts combined the worst aspects of capitalism and socialism, such a social order would fuse the worst aspects of meritocracy and bureaucracy.
It would, in other words, look a lot like the American elite in the first years of the twenty-first century.
* Of course they say the same thing about us. Judge Strikes Down Key Parts Of Walker’s Anti-Public Employee Union Law.
* Don’t check the date, just believe it: Google Maps QuestView for the NES.
* This collection of more-accurate Dr. Seuss titles is one of my favorite things on the entire Internet.
* James Cameron teases the Avatar sequels.
“The best inspiration I got for ‘Avatar’ 2 and 3 was dealing with the master navigator culture in Micronesia,” Cameron said by phone from Tokyo on Friday, where he attended the Japanese premiere of “Titanic 3D.”
The Micronesians, a seafaring culture who navigated the Pacific for centuries without the aid of compasses or charts, already have a lot in common with the blue Na’vi residents of Pandora — they’re an indigenous, matrilineal culture, colonized by outsiders. And the cerulean and aquamarine tones of “Avatar” and its inhabitants seem drawn from postcards from the watery Micronesian region.
* The New York Times has some fun with towards a quantum theory of Mitt Romney.
* In 2011, California spent $9.6 billion on prisons, versus $5.7 billion on higher education. Since 1980, California has built one college campus; it’s built 21 prisons. The state spends $8,667 per student per year. It spends about $50,000 per inmate per year.
* The lottery lie: The educational “bonus” appears to be nonexistent. Miller and Pierce (1997) studied the short- and long-term effect of education lotteries. They found that lottery states did indeed increase per-capita spending on education during the lottery’s early years. However, after some time these states actually decreased their overall spending on education. In contrast, states without lotteries increased education spending over time. In fact, nonlottery states spend, on average, 10 percent more of their budgets on education than lottery states (Gearey 1997).
* Hunger Games commentary watch: Understanding Katniss.
* If you and your board are now determined to show that you in fact have wisdom and maturity when you exercise your powers over the eduction of your young, then you should acknowledge that it was a rotten lesson you taught young people in a free society when you denounced and then burned books–books you hadn’t even read. You should also resolve to expose your children to all sorts of opinions and information, in order that they will be better equipped to make decisions and to survive. Yours sincerely, Kurt Vonnegut.
But the problem goes far beyond politics. We have become a society that can’t self-correct, that can’t address its obvious problems, that can’t pull out of its nosedive. And so to our list of disasters let us add this fourth entry: we have entered an age of folly that—for all our Facebooking and the twittling tweedle-dee-tweets of the twitterati—we can’t wake up from.
* Slate continues to pioneer bold new horizons in fantasy capitalism.
* 3 New Studies Link Bee Decline to Bayer Pesticide. No one could have predicted the widespread implementation of insecticides would kill so many insects!
* The government has put the chances of a magnitude 7.3 quake centered in the north of Tokyo Bay at 70 percent over the next three decades, and has estimated there would be about 11,000 casualties and 850,000 buildings destroyed.
* Cancer research: it’s worse than you think.
* And Canada will stop issuing pennies. Honestly, they’re decades ahead of us. Could be centuries.
Malcolm Harris, who is building his Internet celebrity on this issue, doubles down on all of the bad impulses this kind of thinking engenders. He is here using the language of revolution to justify what is, at its essence, a dispute among the ruling class. He reminds me of nothing so much as the autoworker who curses the “foreigner” who he imagines has stolen what he thought was coming to him. Because Harris knows that his complaint is ultimately a direct expression of entitlement, and the entitlement of those who presumed they would be rewarded by our corrupt system, he has to build a case that is simply antithetical to the left-wing project: the notion that recent college graduates are the dispossessed around which a revolutionary movement deserves to be mustered. Read his piece. I don’t exaggerate.
It should go without saying that this is a project I want nothing to do with. I feel for those struggling under student loan debt, in part because I am myself, but I will not engage in the sophistry and dishonesty that asserts that they are the class that most requires liberation.
Freddie deBoer takes on the New Inquiry issue on “youth” I linked to yesterday. My response to Freddie would just be sure, sure, yes, everything you say is also true—but we can think about more than one type of thing at once.
Malcolm Harris in The New Inquiry #2: Class politics have become intelligible as a generational politics, the forces of what is and what has been arrayed against what else could be. For some the divide is the result of a promise betrayed, whether that promise was that they could maintain their inherited class positions or improve them. For others it’s a recognition that existing institutions are so riddled with predation and corruption, or tied inextricably to ecological devastation, that even their maintenance is unthinkable work. For still others it’s the trauma of service in the latest set of American wars, always declared by the old and fought by the young, or the accumulation of years of police harassment. Some occupiers hardly know why they’re there…
In the long run, though, the GOP has done nothing at all to rehabilitate its deep unpopularity with the public as a whole, and has only further poisoned its standing with Hispanics. But by forswearing compromise, it opened the door to a single shot. The Republicans have gained the House and stand poised to win control of the Senate. If they can claw out a presidential win and hold on to Congress, they will have a glorious two-year window to restore the America they knew and loved, to lock in transformational change, or at least to wrench the status quo so far rightward that it will take Democrats a generation to wrench it back. The cost of any foregone legislative compromises on health care or the deficit would be trivial compared to the enormous gains available to a party in control of all three federal branches.
On the other hand, if they lose their bid to unseat Obama, they will have mortgaged their future for nothing at all. And over the last several months, it has appeared increasingly likely that the party’s great all-or-nothing bet may land, ultimately, on nothing. In which case, the Republicans will have turned an unfavorable outlook into a truly bleak one in a fit of panic.
For what it’s worth I think Chait probably underestimates the likelihood of further conservative freakout once Obama has been reelected, something that could descend into either a total breakdown in the ability of government to function at all or significant political violence (or both). I don’t think it will be pretty.
“Obama is on the ropes; why do we appear ready to hand him a win?” said one senior House Republican aide who requested anonymity to discuss the matter freely. “I just don’t want to co-own the economy by having to tout that we passed a jobs bill that won’t work or at least won’t do enough.”
Putting aside the spectacle of top Republicans once again admitting (in private) that they’re deliberately sabotaging the economy just to hurt Obama, there’s an even bigger issue at stake here. One of the things Matt Yglesias has had right for a long time is the growing institutional crisis in Congress, which increasingly has the lockstep partisan logic of a parliamentary system coupled with the procedures and myriad veto points of a presidential system. The worst-of-both-worlds result is a situation in which the minority party not only benefits from the failure of the majority party’s agenda but has the power to ensure that failure by preventing any legislation from being passed at all.
You just can’t run a government this way—at least, not for very long.
* In sum, nobody — and I mean nobody — was talking about how weak the presidency supposedly is before Barack Obama was inaugurated: neither in the domestic nor foreign policy realm. Greenwald is debating Scott Lemieux from Lawyers, Guns, and Money, whose posts on the subject are here and here.
* In CounterPunch: Who Will Save Libya From Its Western Saviours?
* “The man sitting in front of you is not a so-called statesman, but a completely normal person”: Mikhail Gorbachev at 80.
* Chart of the day: paid vacation in the developed world.
* Never forget: Economic contraction is a policy choice.
* Peter Singer: The Troubled Life of Nim Chimpsky.
* And two months from now it will have always been appropriate for lawyers to call themselves “Dr.” Looking forward to it.